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NHL New York Rangers

New York Rangers’ Rick Nash Reclaiming His Place as Team Scapegoat

Getty Images

Getty Images

It wasn’t long ago that New York Rangers forward Rick Nash was receiving a ton of heat for his postseason performance, or lack thereof.

Despite putting 52 shots on net during the first two rounds of the playoffs, Nash couldn’t seem to get a puck in net. Things hit a peak when he began having boos rained on him from hometown fans any time the puck hit his stick. The team’s star player wasn’t helping the cause, and he was hearing about it every single day.

Then, during the Eastern Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens, Nash appeared to have broken out of his slump, netting three goals in a five game span. New York advanced, the peasants rejoiced and Nash was finally contributing.

Fast forward to this morning, and things have fallen back into familiar territory for the Rangers winger. Nash hasn’t scored a single point since Game 5 against Montreal. His plus/minus rating has been -1 in three of the four games since. Despite still being the playoff leader in shots on goal with 80, Nash’s goal total sits at a paltry three in 23 games.

And, since this lack of results is now combined with a 3-0 hole to the Los Angeles Kings, he’s firmly been placed back into the role of team scapegoat.

Nash had a chance to put his team on the board last night during Game 3, as he attempted a wraparound shot with Kings goalie Jonathan Quick out of position. However, he was hooked on the play and missed as a result. If you searched Nash’s name on Twitter, though, you weren’t seeing a ton of sympathy sent his way. Instead, the majority of the tweets read something along the lines of “Nash can’t even score on an open net,” with a few words I can’t reprint sprinkled into each.

When the idea of blaming Nash was first brought up, the consensus was that he was definitely trying, but the fact he’s the team’s star forward increases expectations. Said expectations are raised to an ultimate high when your team is playing for the Stanley Cup. On the NHL’s grand stage, teams count on their best – and highest paid – players to step up more than ever. All Nash has contributed to New York’s cause is 15 shots in three games.

Now, with the Rangers just one loss away from having their Cup dreams shatter, people are beginning to point the finger of blame towards any and all guilty parties they can find. New York, as a whole, isn’t scoring a ton in general, averaging just 2.61 goals per game. But when the Rangers swung for the fences in their trade for Nash during the 2012 offseason, they expected much more out of him when it matters most. Teams don’t make a big trade like that unless they think it can help their chances for the Stanley Cup. Now, New York has finally returned to the Cup Finals, and Nash isn’t helping their chances at all. And while other players on the roster haven’t played to their full potential this postseason, said players also aren’t being paid the $7.8 million Nash is getting this year.

Many believe Game 4 Wednesday night will result in the Kings hoisting the Stanley Cup. Even if they don’t prevail tomorrow, L.A. winning the Cup would result in a lot of scapegoating with the Rangers. It’ll also create a long summer for Nash, as a notoriously nasty New York media will spend months calling out his underwhelming performance when his team needed him most.

Casey Drottar is an NHL writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @CDrottar19 or “Like” him on Facebook